May 14, 2004
Trying to outsmart British Airways, we attempted to assign our own seats on-line so that we could skip the line at the airport and kick back in the emergency exit row for the seven hour flight. Alas, the slowest ever dial-up connection foiled our plans and made us sweaty with frustration. We mentally hurled the laptop away and went at it with baseball bats ala "Office Space" and went out for brunch. Paul's Boutique, a cafe named after the Beastie Boys' album, satisfied our hunger and thirst and gave us the energy we needed to try to wrangle our airplane seats once more. No joy. We were going to have to hit the kiosks after all.
With the memory of our last attempt to get to JFK still fresh in our minds, we allotted several hours to ourselves to take the train (the right one in the right direction this time) and take the free shuttle (allowing for the many stops at each parking space and each terminal along the way). Final bag check, snacks check, and tickets check, check. We caught the correct A train to Howard Beach and narrowly missed getting hit by a poor, sick, crying child's projectile vomit in the process. Pleased with ourselves and with hours to spare, we strutted out of the train and headed to the airport shuttle. Which was nowhere to be seen. Which no longer exists. Which has been replaced with the brand-spanking new, futuristic, $5-one-way AirTrain. Yes, it swiftly delivered us to the proper terminal in about 15 minutes. Yes, it was clean and roomy. Yes, we were still annoyed that we had to pay $5 for a one-way ticket to the terminal when, until December 2003, it was free. True to our fake Scottish heritage, we are 'mean with our money' (quote attributed to a real Scots woman). Aside: to learn more about the difference between 'Scots' and 'Scotch', click here. Otherwise, enjoy this explanation by Mike Meyers playing a fiercely proud Scot on an SNL skit "All Things Scottish,": "Scotch is a drink. Scots are a people. But we are both great tasting!"
By 5:00 p.m. we were in the front door of the terminal. By 5:05, we checked ourselves in at the kiosk and selected our seats (rats, no emergency exit rows left). By 5:10, we were through security with two hours to spare. Two whole hours. What to do, what to do. We dined on airport food. We flipped through magazines. We poked around the duty-free shops where I helped myself to some pre-flight free samples of the insanely expensive La Mer products. Seriously? $110 for 1 ounce of lotion? Ah me.
When our flight was called, we excitedly boarded the plane, found our seats, and settled in. Unfortunately, our happiness with our primo seats was short-lived. A portly man sporting a navy blue blazer with shiny brass buttons, a way-too-open collared white shirt, and several gold chains sat next to me. Our eyes slid glances at our neighbor, slid glances at each other, and suddenly filled with tears. The 'Sea Captain', as Amelie dubbed him, reeked. The foulest, rankest, most fetid stench emanated from him in nearly visible waves. A cartoon version of him would employ hundreds of stink lines. The noisome, pestilential odor made my nostrils curl and my lungs refuse to function. He was either an animated corpse with a valid passport or else he was rotting from the inside out. When he got up to use the bathroom, I quickly flagged down a flight attendant and begged her to move us anywhere else on the plane. She said she would see what she could do. The Sea Captain sat back in his seat. The funk of forty thousand years + seven hour flight = sheer agony waiting for the flight attendant to return. My lungs were burning and screaming for fresh air. My hands went numb from strategically holding a magazine so closely to my face to shield my tortured nose. My eyes were blurring and my brain started getting foggy from the shallow breathing. My Jedi mind tricks failed to force the emergency oxygen masks to drop down and provide us with a respite. The flight attendant returned with good news and we scrambled out of our seats, into the aisle, and towards the back of the plane so quickly that you would have thought we were practicing for an evacuation drill. We were given the seats in the extremely last row, right next to the bathrooms, and with little-to-no seat reclining action. We were in heaven.